Mrs. Beeton’s Hodge Podge Stew ~ move over Martha and Nigella, Isabella Beeton was the original domestic goddess. This classic beef stew recipe is from her Book of Household Management, 1861!
Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in London in 1861, is a 1,112 page guidebook for Victorian ladies. It includes instructions for every member of a bustling middle class Victorian household, from the mistress herself, down through the chain of command to the housekeeper, cook, butler, footman, coachman, valet, laundry-maid, nurse-maid, wet-nurse and many more.
She includes advice on everything from legal matters, to hiring servants, to choosing the most suitable colors for a ladies’ wardrobe. A reader can look up how to clean their butter churn, make boot polish (it contains treacle and olive oil!) or exactly how to slaughter an ox. Aspiring Victorian social climbers could pick up invaluable insight into polite society, including the admonition that under no circumstances should a lady ‘gargle the mouth’ with the fingertip water that is brought around to clean genteel fingers at the end of a fine meal.
This was the first book to compile recipes in the format that we’re familiar with today, with lists of ingredients first and instructions following. She compiled over 900 recipes illustrated with colorful engravings, all before she died at the age of 28, after the birth of her fourth child. But she did a lot more than just present recipes…
“In the department belonging to the Cook I have striven, too, to make my work something more than a Cookery Book, and have, therefore, on the best authority that I could obtain, given an account of the natural history of the animals and vegetables which we use as food. I have followed the animal from his birth to his appearance on the table; have described the manner of feeding him, and of slaying him, the position of his various joints, and, after giving the recipes, have described the modes of carving Meat, Poultry, and Game.
It was definitely a challenge to choose a recipe from Mrs. Beeton’s book, not so much because of the sheer number of choices, but because the Victorian methods and ingredients are often foreign to the modern palate. In her introduction to the Cookery section of the book Mrs. Beeton makes a typically Victorian (and racist) connection between the relative complexity of food preparation, and civilization. Maybe this explains why her instructions for vegetables involve such ‘extended’ boiling times and so many of the illustrations look more like Easter bonnets than food!
But I managed to find something that appealed to me. As I said yesterday, there’s a hint of fall in the air these days, so I felt this simple stew would be a good choice. The addition of pale ale is very British, and the smell while it was cooking was wonderful. I think Isabella would approve of my decision to use the crock pot…she was a great champion of the most modern kitchens.
- I halved the ingredients for my version, and used beef round instead of beef shin.
- I also used way less water than called for, about 2 cups for the half recipe because I wanted more of a stew.
- I threw it all in the slow cooker for about 6 hours.
Mrs. Beeton’s HODGE PODGE (exactly as from the Book of Household Management)
- 2 lbs. of shin of beef
- 3 quarts of water
- 1 pint of table-beer
- 2 onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 turnips
- 1 head of celery
- pepper and salt to taste
- thickening of butter and flour.
- Put the meat, beer, and water in a stewpan; simmer for a few minutes, and skim carefully.
- Add the vegetables and seasoning; stew gently till the meat is tender.
- Thicken with the butter and flour, and serve with turnips and carrots, or spinach and celery.
- Time.—3 hours, or rather more.
- Sufficient for 12 persons.
You can read the Book of Household Management in its entirety at the Project Gutenburg online book site. I recommend it.